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A Proposed Model for Determining Ma’at vs. Isfet

Before you read this post, you need to read the first and second parts of this series, otherwise nothing will make sense.

So far, I’ve talked about how ma’at is like a regenerative system, which is a living series of processes that will renew and regenerate themselves provided their unique balance is maintained. Some examples of regenerative systems in daily life are ecosystems or your body. In opposition to this is isfet, which is what happens when disorder overtakes a regenerative system and makes it degenerative. Degenerative systems are not sustainable and tend to destroy the balance of other nearby systems. In this post, I’d like to discuss how we can use this model to determine if something we’re doing is more in alignment with isfet or ma’at.

Using this Model

So now we’re at the most important part of this whole discussion. We’ve laid the framework for understanding:

  • how systems work
  • how ma’at aligns with regenerative systems
  • how disorder tests the resiliency of a system
  • how too much disorder will put your regenerative balance is at risk
  • how isfet is an embodiment of degradation of natural systems.

Now comes the time for bringing it all together so that we can better reflect on our own actions and whether they relate to isfet, ma’at, or somewhere in between.

The reason that viewing ma’at as a system was so revolutionary for me was because it made it so much easier to understand if something was actually aligning with ma’at or not — because we’re using very concrete terms. Many times, I’ve found that people want to distort ma’at into being something that is relatively passive, or ultimately doesn’t require the person to really change or grow. To summarize this model for ma’at, it would be: if it bothers me, it’s isfet. If it doesn’t bother me, it’s ma’at.

However, by establishing that ma’at is like a particular thing that has a particular set of needs that must be met in order to be maintained, it really allows us to examine whether the things we do in our lives actually lives up to those needs, regardless of our own biases or feeling. By using a structure that can be clearly defined, it removes at least a portion of our bias, and allows us to be more objective in our assessment of ma’at. It also allows us to be very succinct when describing it.

Put succinctly: if something is pushing multiple systems towards degeneration, it’s likely aligned with isfet. If something pushes multiple systems towards regeneration, it’s likely aligned with ma’at.

For example, humans need several things to really survive and be healthy. Things such as:

  • Access to nutritious food, shelter, clean clothing (you’ll note, all of these are markers of having lived in ma’at in antiquity)
  • Access to healthy and supportive relationships. Humans are social creatures, and we need some amount of social interaction to be healthy.
  • Ability to self-express in a fashion that doesn’t hurt others (directly or otherwise)
  • Ability to be autonomous over our own choices and decisions, the feeling of having some control over your life and future.

So, if these things are all necessary for human systems to be healthy, then we know that anything that directly opposes these things is isfetian in nature.

Caveats: Frequency, Context, Scope, and Scale

Now, of course, there is some grey area in here. There are a few other considerations that must be applied when determining whether something is truly isfetian or ma’atian; things such as frequency, context, scope.

Frequency is about as straightforward as it sounds. That whole bit about disorder being the beginning of the sliding towards ultimately unraveling (isfet) means that a singular action isn’t necessarily going to lead you straight into isfet-town. For example, I know that fast food is really bad for my health. It is ultimately a degenerative force in my life. However, if I choose to eat it occasionally, it’s not likely going to qualify 100% as isfet in my specific system. Why? Because I’ve enacted moderation.

There are always places where we can have little exceptions to the moderation that marks our daily life. In antiquity, this is largely the role that festivals and holidays performed. They allowed people to let loose and let go for a short period of time before they fell back into the regularity of daily life. In our modern era, this isn’t always the case, and I’ve found that many of us are constantly living on the edge of making decisions that ultimately undo our efforts to thrive.

In short, frequency is the difference between engaging in a damaging behaviour in moderation vs. engaging in it all the time. Its the difference between eating something that’s bad for you once a month vs. every day. The frequency is vital to keep in mind when considering whether something is damaging or not. The less often you engage in damaging activities, the less likely they are to evoke an isfetian reaction in your specific system (aka your body and/or life.)

The context and scale of an action should also be considered, because it turns out that changing the scope or context of an action often will change whether its damaging or not — and that’s mostly because we live in a degenerative system. For example, let’s take the fast food thing mentioned above. On a small scale, when I’m really only thinking about how it effects me and me alone, it’s relatively harmless when in moderation. However, on a large scale, one might consider the act of giving your money to a fast food establishment isfetian. Why? Because many of these establishments treat their employees horribly. They engage in practices that degrade people’s lives by purposefully underpaying them and denying them access to necessary resources. Many of these companies engage in practices that wreck the environment, they lobby for legislation that allows them to get away with bad practices, and most of these companies aren’t putting much beneficial energy back into the world.

There is a phrase, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” and that’s truly visible when using this model. When it comes to most larger systems, such as supply chains, economies, and governments — nothing is currently sustainable, and as such, is degenerative in nature (as I mentioned in previous posts.) The context of every action is important, because I think it’s vital that we remember that so much of our day to day lives are built on practices that are not sustainable (aka degenerative), and often hurt marginalized countries and peoples the hardest. While a singular act on a small scale is relatively harmless, when considering the full scope of the process of that act even being available to you — the true harm often comes into focus.

This, of course, muddies the water because it can be ethically confusing to determine how on earth to do anything without putting energy into an inherently isfetian system, but that’s also why engaging in activism, being politically active, and holding those in positions of power accountable is all the more important. I would argue that not doing so leans you towards isfet, because it means you’re choosing to ignore the degenerative systems that are eating away at the regenerative system that is you.

And please bear in mind: sometimes the ma’atian choice, the course of action that honors the regenerative nature in you and others, will be painful or difficult. Many people want to equate ma’at to the path of least resistance, and I am here to tell you that this is often not the case. That’s why its very important to really examine all of the aspects of a given course of action to ensure you’re not copping out due to fear of the new and unknown.

Useful Questions to Consider

Here are some examples of questions that can be asked when trying to determine whether a large-scale system is regenerative or not:

  • Will this legislation/action/structure degrade human lives?
  • Will it cause people to lose their autonomy?
  • Will it degrade the community and connections that people have?
  • Will it restrict access to healthy food, clean water, adequate housing and healthcare?
  • Will it oppress or hold back a particular group of people (please keep in mind that leveling the playing field between classes or races is not oppression)?
  • Does it rely on a biased system/structure to reinforce it?
  • Does it needlessly destroy nature?
  • Does it endanger natural resources and living things?
  • Does it destroy or threaten other regenerative systems?
  • Does it lead us closer to things like climate change or fascism?

And in case its not clear yet, if the answer to these is yes, it’s isfetian in nature.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when trying to determine whether a small-scale interaction is regenerative or not:

  • Does this harm my health?
  • Does this hurt my relationships or those around me needlessly?
  • Does this incite self-hatred or acts of violence or abuse against the self?
  • Will this cause you regret or shame later on?
  • Does this hinder my or others growth, however painful?
  • Would those who care about you condone this choice?

Of course, sometimes these things are not clear cut, and that’s why its important to always consider the wider context of a situation as discussed above.

If you’ve managed to make it through all three posts, I congratulate you. If you have any questions or would like to suggest any other means of refining this model, I welcome them!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2020 in Kemeticism

 

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A Year of Rites: Reflections, Redirections

With 2019 having come to a close, so too has both the Year of Rites project and Making Ma’at project come to a close. I wasn’t sure if there was anything to say about either, but it feels weird to not do a recap of both before moving onto whatever next chapter lay ahead.

Making Ma’at

I will start by saying that I have a hard time not viewing both projects as something of a failure. The Making Ma’at project barely got off the ground, and once we lost the repository that contained what everyone had written, the project basically was dead in the water. I personally think that that is a crying shame, because we really do lack ready-made resources for honoring ma’at, and with ma’at being at the center of our religion, it feels weird that we don’t have more to work with.

When it comes to pinpointing why this project didn’t go very far, I personally blame a bit of myself — in that I didn’t have the energy or time to consistently research new prompts and ideas to get people creating new stuff to add to the project. But on the flip side, I also feel like no one was overly committed to the project if no one else was working to come up with new ideas. Which is honestly the biggest problem with our community, isn’t it.

My hope is that maybe people will still add to the project in their own time, or that what was created will at least serve as something of a resource for those in the future.

Year of Rites

Then there is the cluster that was the Year of Rites. I knew going into the YoR that I was hoping for more than I should. I knew that the odds of people participating in it were slim. I knew that the odds of me being able to complete everything to a level that I would prefer would be slim — especially if my grandfather died along the way. But I have a bad problem with hoping for more than I should, and in the end, I was disappointed by it all. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any useful lessons along the way, however.

First off, I will say that creating 18 rubrics in a year is a horrible idea unless you have a ton of time and mental space to work with. I was really trying to embody traditional verbiage and heka because I feared straying too far from verbatim sources, and so crafting something 100% from scratch didn’t happen very often. As such, I would scour the source materials to try and find sections that made sense for what I was trying to create. Source materials take forever for me to read, and I would often have to read 50 pages before I found a little tidbit that would be useful for whatever rubric I was working on.

When I wasn’t overly stressed, working the rubrics wasn’t all that bad because you get to learn a lot of random information from sifting through source materials. As a byproduct, it’s easier to follow some of the information that is presented in various books and papers. I can also say that reading the source materials also gave me a very good understanding of how sentences should be structured and words selected to make better heka. Only after I started working on these rubrics did I realize that my old rituals had a lot of wiggle room and a lukewarm quality in many of the words chosen.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that each rubric took hours to make, they were hardly commented on, and probably four people used them throughout the year. If I ever did this again, I’d cut the rubric creation down to maybe two versions for an entire year. Anything more than that is unrealistic.

As for the rituals themselves, I managed to complete every ritual up until the end of June when things went on hiatus to take care of grandpa. After that, I completed 3 out of 4 rites per month until I quit doing it all together in October. If we want to count my eating-as-a-ritual for the Mysteries, then I completed all of December’s work as well, though none of the originally-planned rituals were performed.

All in all, I did more than I didn’t, but it still doesn’t feel like I accomplished much. Having my depression completely wipe the desire out of me to do anything really put a bind on the end of the year, and I still don’t know how I feel about that. If I’m also being honest, the lack of feedback and participation on the by and large didn’t motivate me to continue, either. By June I was wrapped in a sort of “no one really cares” state, which is why the write-ups stopped around that time. It’s also why I quit documenting my rites on IG, and it’s why I never bothered to rework the rubrics in September when I found I disliked them vehemently (this also played into why I didn’t want to keep doing the rituals come October — I had to use new rubrics that I hated.)

As my ability and desire to perform these rites degraded across the year, I can say that structured rituals can serve as a good focal point for me if I’m not too stressed or depressed. When I’m not doing good mentally, its very easy to just go through the motions of the ritual and not really be present. If I’m not present, it’s really not doing me much good and I usually end up rushing everything as quickly as possible (which probably doesn’t do the NTRW much good, either.) The final rites that I did during the Mysteries were much better at keeping me present — more so than doing a structured ritual. I think there is something important to that.

So what now?

I realized somewhere around September that I would soon need to start making decisions about my future with performing regular rituals for the NTRW; along with what my future with Kemeticism would actually look like once this year was over. I don’t like performing standard, structured rituals if I’m being completely honest. It’s hard for me to find reason to set aside the time, clear out the space, and sit down to perform these rites. Perhaps if I had the right space, or perhaps if I got more out of the experience, I would feel differently. And while I understand that these rituals are supposed to be for the NTRW, it doesn’t change the fact that unless I find a way to repackage them or get more out of them, I’m not likely to perform them. We’re all human, and as humans, we don’t do well with tasks that we view as pointless or not serving a purpose. And that’s exactly where I ended up with most of my rituals by the time October rolled around.

However, I don’t know that I can, in good conscience (yes), just set rituals aside and not perform them ever at all. Rereading Roberts’ books in 2018 really drove home (for me) that the original religious structure really placed a heavy emphasis on our rituals helping to maintain the regenerative processes of the NTRW. And it’s led me to question if the lack of continuous ritual on our end could have a degradation of things for the NTRW. It brings us back to the age old issue of “if we think this is really real, and if we believe the Egyptians did things for a Reason that they also believed was really real, then why am I casually ignoring doing that?”

Because if the rituals did actually influence the quality of life for our gods, or if the rituals did actually help to keep the Duat regular and functional, then it really begs us to ask what would happen if those rituals stopped. And by extension, why we don’t do more of them.

And I’m really stuck on that.

So far, I do think I want to create something that strikes a balance between traditional ritual work and what I did in December. For me, it makes more sense to find something that fits into what I am capable of right now, and then build towards something that is more refined as I learn more from my experiences. That being said, I’m still not entirely sure what that looks like, or how I want to approach it.

I guess we’ll see what 2020 brings on that front.


For those of you who participated in either project, I would love to hear your feedback or thoughts so that I can incorporate them into any future projects that may occur.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2020 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at, Year of Rites

 

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Eating a Mystery: Weeks 2-4

It seemed that a few days into my second week, the concept of contemplating my “father” while eating had dried up. I’d sit at the table and try to think about fathers and what it means to glorify one, and my brain would seem to hit a wall. I can’t tell if this means I’ve properly worked through enough of this topic and need to move onto something else, or if this is just my brain being my brain. Either way, I decided that I should instead figure out what it would mean to glorify myself through eating.

When I think of glorification and what it’s trying to do, I feel like one of the biggest components is making the entity being glorified feel comfortable and content in the space that you’re in. As I’ve stated so many times, I don’t really like eating and I dislike cooking even more, and feeling this way while eating seems antithetical to being glorified. So I began to ask myself: what would make the eating/cooking process more enjoyable? What would make me feel decent while I ate, but also wouldn’t distract me from eating? What could I do that would allow me to feel like I was taking care of myself more?

The tentative answer became “add music.”

Music is one of those things that is super helpful with moderating my emotions. I can use it to keep me distracted from my depressive thoughts while still having enough mental space to pay attention to what I’m doing. If I use the right combination, I can use music to slowly drag myself into a different headspace, and I often use it to pull myself out of deeper depression spots whenever possible. So I started to listen to music while cooking and eating to see if it would help.

I found that by doing this, I ended up taking more time to cook and eat, and therefore would sometimes eat more than I might have otherwise. In this respect, I think music is a successful addition to my eating method.

I also began to ask myself if adding some things that were not on diet could help me eat more. For example, I love croutons on my salads, but they’re not allowed under my diet restrictions. However, I could add a small amount of them in, and likely not incur any major issues with my health. So I began to do this to try and motivate myself to eat more. My hope was that once I was capable of eating on the regular, I could then start to trim out stuff that was bad for me. If eating is more important than eating a specific way, then this seemed like a good interim solution.

Sometime during these two weeks, I received a visit from another NTR. This one is one I could consider something of a father, perhaps, and I was asked to focus on him for a bit, since my situation with O never changed. After working with him for a few days, I began to feel as though my rejection of what had happened between me and O was necessary, a necessary part of healing both of us, and so I began to feel less concerned over whether I had messed everything up or not.

And that’s really all that happened during weeks two and three. I honestly began to worry if I’d have enough to warrant an entire post, because once my PMDD settled down, it became easier to eat and the music helped me not be so bothered by the process. However, on the last day of week three, I noticed that I was beginning to struggle again. I didn’t want to eat anything, I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything I had in the house, and all I wanted was food that was bad for me.

The final week proved to be as disastrous as the first in some respects. I had emotional turmoil trying to force myself to eat what I didn’t want to. I found myself not wanting anything, and I was prone to putting off the act of eating in the hopes that somehow I would be able to figure it out, even though I knew I wasn’t likely going to figure it out. By this stage, the act of eating had become more normalized, and I knew that if I didn’t eat, the pang in my stomach would be even worse than before I had started this jaunt, but that didn’t make it any easier to convince myself that eating what I had in the house needed to happen.

I couldn’t tell you how I managed to do it, but I seemingly managed to force myself to eat despite the hurdles. But what it really confirmed for me is that my illnesses really do inhibit my ability to get things done. Its no mystery why my execrations were the hardest to get done: they always occurred when my PMDD was at its strongest. And when the Monthly Ma’at rituals ended up at the end of the month as well, well, those stopped happening, too.

This, of course, brings up a lot of questions about where the line between obligation and personal needs should be. Whether the NTRW (or frankly, our judgemental peers) understand the need for leeway for those of us who have chronic illness; where there are going to always be periods of time where doing things is just not likely to happen. And, of course, how harshly one judges themselves for having those limitations and how that bleeds into our religious community and expereince. But that’s a separate post for another day.

Right before the very end of my month, I finally was given access to do the work that I had been trying to do for years. I spent three days on the task, and within a few days after being finished, I could feel some things finally settle into place on my end. Does that mean I was successful? Does it mean that I was able to get something done? Does that mean that eating for a month was useful? I couldn’t say.

But at least I can now go back to “normal”? Which now does seem to involve eating multiple times per day. So I guess if nothing else, I can say that this year’s Mysteries might have gotten back into eating regularly again, even if I’m still not sure what purpose this serves to help glorify my “father.”

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in Kemeticism, Year of Rites

 

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Eating a Mystery: week 1

CW: This post gets heavy and may be difficult for people who have issues with suicidal ideation or depression.


The first week has been checkered.

Each meal has been eaten, but sometimes I’ve not been full when I’m done, sometimes the meals are lackluster, and sometimes I’m purposefully distracting myself from eating because its the only way I could find to eat. I’ve had to sort out where the rules can be bent and where they can’t, because trying to eat while teetering on the edge of a meltdown is very challenging. Making the choice between what is more important: being present or being able to eat has not always been clear, and I often erred on the side of eating over mindfulness, and hopefully O would agree to that decision, but I’ve really no way of knowing. Breakfast is usually one of the least-mindful meals because I’m often barely functional at 6 in the morning, and its not uncommon for my depression to be sky high first thing in the morning. In situations where I found myself eating with others, I often decided it was more important to be present than to focus on navel gazing. Hopefully these are the right answers to whatever is going on because no one gave me any guidelines for these sorts of situations.

As it turns out, its hard to want to nourish yourself when you 1. don’t want to nourish yourself and 2. aren’t particularly interested in nourishing the person who directed you to do this to begin with. Every time I’ve sat down to eat, I’ve heard a phrase run through my head, a sort of attempt to put me in the right state of mind for what I’m trying to achieve, and most times when I think about nourishing myself to nourish O, I have difficulties with wanting to.

There is a large rift between us, and I still don’t entirely understand how it got there, but its there all the same. I’ve not trusted him for years, and while I was willing to finish the work I had started in 2016, I ultimately haven’t wanted him touching anything that is mine. I’ve had this inherent desire to draw a very thick boundary between my work and what I do for the NTRW, lest they decide to dip their fingers into my stuff without asking permission. Where did this come from? I don’t know, but its been there and it’s not gone away.

Asking me to nourish my body for a god I don’t want anywhere near me is asking a lot. Asking a god I don’t want near me to potentially draw close to my body because that’s where the nourishment is is asking almost too much, apparently.

There was a bout at some point during the week where I really rifled through all of my memories of O, and our earliest interactions were not what I’d consider to be, uh, healthy or consensual. Boundaries have been crossed by him in nearly every respect, and yet somehow I’m still here, and I’m really skeeved by that. I had an overwhelming moment where I found myself rejecting what he had done, and I think by extension, rejected him. I can’t tell what impact that’s going to have, since my ability to really tap into anything from O since has basically disappeared. For all I know, I’ve broken it or messed it up before the first week was even done. I can’t even tell if I’m bothered by that.

I’d sometimes shift my thoughts to nourishing Father-Lover instead, to see how I felt about my nourishment nourishing him. Parts of me were just as against the idea of nourishing him as they are against O, but my thoughts regarding FL were mostly tinged with sadness over contempt. I found that the biggest hiccup with FL was that I never mourned him in any of the situations where he was, well, killed. Each situation where it happened, I had no way of knowing if he’d show back up again or not. He was so hellbent on not coming back, and yet it seemed cruel that inevitably, he would eventually re-manifest back in the same awful place he tried to leave to begin with. It’s partially why we got on so well together — we could both commiserate about how little we wanted to be alive.

Of course, he eventually got what he wanted, leaving me with one less person in my life.

I made some artwork to try and process the mourning that I never completed. I would be lying if I said I knew if it helped or not. There are moments when I think it has, and there are moments when I’m sure that it hasn’t. Though as the week dragged on, I found that my focus shifted from “fathers” to myself and my inability to want to take care of myself.

Someone had commented on the last post about how the act of making my food could be folded into all of this. I know it could be, but the idea sounds awful to me. Any attempts to really cuddle up with the notion of being invested in my food prep have left me frustrated and against the idea. The thought of investing myself even more into making food that I ultimately don’t like, that ultimately doesn’t seem to ever fill me or sate me just sounds like Too Much. So even though I’m supposed to be really going all in with eating, its just not happening. I don’t like eating, food is not pleasurable to me, cooking is boring and sucks the life out of me, and I just really don’t know how to get around that.

When I went to therapy, one of the first issues she really wanted me to sort out was being invested in being alive. She told me that I couldn’t expect life to ever be worthwhile if I was only half-assing everything I did. Which is fair, I guess. Shortly after I really tried to start going “all in” on life, and I held on to my motivation to push forward despite the odds until sometime last winter. I felt it slowly slipping away from me as the spaces that had been inviting before began to change, and suddenly they became lonely and alienating for me. I lost more of my friends, and with it, everywhere I went just felt all that much more isolating. I pulled back on every social media platform because of this, trying to shelter myself from the loneliness that howls inside of me, and by the time I began having daily panic attacks in March, I knew that “all in” was gone.

And perhaps that’s the largest core issue for me so far with everything tied to this “project.” I’m not invested in living at this point. Its a combination of so many things that have converged to really just suck the desire to bother out of me. I am a burden to myself, a trait I learned by being a burden to my parents and family. I abandon myself because that’s what people do when they are abandoned by others (particularly at a young age). These two things feed into one another — you don’t want to do the work when it feels like a burden, especially because you’re not invested in the person/s you’re doing the work for. I can barely muster the effort to do basics so that I’ll be here for my partner, a person I actually care about, let alone a deity that I feel like I can barely tolerate at this point. Instead of drawing me closer to wanting to sustain myself or sustain my gods, its mostly just dredged up all of the reasons why I’d rather not.

I have no clue if this is what O had in mind when he tasked me with this, but here we are all the same.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2019 in Kemeticism, Year of Rites

 

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Eating a Mystery

A few weeks ago I was getting ready for my shower when I suddenly got this memo that went something like “don’t forget that you need to be preparing for the Mysteries this year.” It struck me as odd, since I haven’t really done anything for the Year of Rites since October, and for the NTRW to not harp me on that, but instead decide I needed to perform the Mysteries really seemed out of character.

I asked the “memo” what I needed to focus on for the Mysteries, and I received one line, it said “Glorify your father.

In the matter of a few seconds, my brain raced in several directions with this. First off, the word father really seemed highlighted to me, and there are two reasons for that. First is the mythological component. Osiris’ myths are frequently centered on Horus and his quest to avenge his father and take back what’s his. Second, you’ve got the historical context in that every Osiris relies on his eldest son to give him a proper funeral and to maintain his cult to at least some degree. Both of these aspects would place me in the role of Horus glorifying my father, and have fairly straight-forward heka connotations.

But what really caught me was the third place my brain went.

While I understand that the NTRW can use familial terms for some people, it’s never been the case for me. Further, if there was a NTR out there that I would use familial terms with, it certainly isn’t Osiris. But there is another person that frequently gets labeled specifically as father (as opposed to “dad” or some other similar label, it’s always father) and that would be good ol’ Father-Lover. Would I need to incorporate aspects of my rebirth/rebuilding process into this? Or perhaps more accurately — had the NTRW decided to insert themselves into my process without letting me know? I wasn’t pleased with the idea.

Between all of these concepts, though, there is one vein of similarities: you become your father.

Ultimately, the reason Osiris gets it on with Aset is largely to make sure that he continues on through his son. Ultimately, the son and father overlap and become one mythologically speaking (hence Bull of His Mother) and so in some respects, I would argue that you could potentially interchange the two to some extent. And when it comes to Father-Lover, well, its just that we are literally the same being spread across two forms. We are ultimately one and the same on some level or another.

So I began to mull on this. If glorifying my father ultimately ends up glorifying myself… what would glorification look like? The word “glorify” means to praise or present admirably, perhaps unjustifiably so. It is what nearly every Kemetic ritual aims to do — to beautify the NTRW in the hopes that they will remain gracious to us. It is also through this process of glorification that we ensure that the rhythmic needs of the Duat are sustained and maintained. Re needs to go into the Duat each night, he needs to push back a/pep each day, he and Osiris need to meet in order to revitalize the Duat and its residents. Just like nature, everything has a rhythm and a cycle. Part of our end of the deal is performing the rituals and doing the acts that sustain these cycles.

To consider this concept on myself, we all need a healthy attitude about ourselves. We would all lead more fulfilling and less-miserable lives if many of us weren’t constantly being self-defeating or putting ourselves down. To glorify yourself would ultimately mean to feed into your inherent regenerative nature. And so I asked myself what would help sustain me most?

I then switched back to considering the historical contexts of glorifying your father — what do akhu value most from their families? What do we often see most often for helping the akhu? And the answer I came back with was:

The voice offering, in my opinion, is the quintessential akhu rite out there. There are lots of people who know nothing about Kemeticism, but know about the “thousands of beer, bread, and every good thing” voice offering that was left to the akhu of the necropolis. The most important thing a son could do for his father was to offer the basic necessities of life so that his father could continue to live in the Duat. And when I think about what the best offering that you could give would be, I thought of the foreleg. The foreleg is, by far, the piece de resistance in the Opening the Mouth ceremony. Everything in the ritual crescendos when you pull out the choice cut of meat and offer all of its contained vitality to the statue/mummy.

I thought to myself, could I offer myself the foreleg instead? Could I offer it to both of us simultaneously?

One of the suggestions after my post about my eating issues interfering with being able to offer to the gods regularly was the idea of drawing foods, and offering the drawing. In response to this, I began to offer my paper foreleg amulet to the NTRW as a stand-in meal. And so the connection between the foreleg and the offering of foods went full circle, and I thought to myself “what if I offer a meal to myself every day? So that instead of doing offerings at a shrine that are couched inside of a larger ritual, the act of feeding myself becomes the ritual.” And in response, I heard “what if you did it three times per day?” (since, you know, we’re supposed to eat three meals a day.)

So I guess that means I’m eating three times per day for the Mysteries.

I admit, this is strange to me. It feels like a cop out, like I’m just using something I “already do,” and saying that it’s a good replacement for “proper rituals” at a shrine, as I have been doing all year. But to cite that post I mentioned above: I don’t really eat regularly. Or at least, I don’t eat as regularly as I should. So it’s actually quite a challenge for me, since I won’t be able to eat depression meals and call it a day. Even though it feels like a cop out, it’s going to actually be a challenge for me to do this for any length of time.

I decided I needed to check through other means to make sure that I was on the right track, and the response I got was so direct and straightforward that it was hard to deny the answer, so I guess this means I’m eating three times per day for the Mysteries. Which O dictated that it’s to be a month, as it’s always been. So I’m eating three times per day for a month. I’m sure that’ll be riddled with success.

The general idea of how this is supposed to go is that I’m to treat each meal as an event that requires my full attention. I’m to focus on myself, the food I’m eating, and try not to let myself get super distracted by the Internet, my phone, thoughts, or what have you. The meals need to have enough substance to them that they can be called meals. So for example, just eating a piece of bread and walking away is not good enough. It needs to big enough to fill me up (a challenge.)

The biggest question I am left with when it comes to doing this is the following: when we typically do rituals, there is a layer of separation involved. You offer to the gods, separate from you, and then you take the food into yourself afterwards. The path is outwards (to the gods) then inwards (when you eat it.) But what happens when you skip the outwards part? What happens when both the offering and the consuming are done in one step, at the same time, with both parties being overlapped? And is O doing this because he wants me to take care of myself, or is he wanting me to do this because of the overlap I just mentioned?

I guess we’ll see.

 

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True of Voice

We are often raised with fundamental “truths” that are established by our caregivers. These truths are bestowed upon us from the moment we are born, and they are reinforced regularly so long as you are around those people. Sometimes, these truths are healthy, accurate, and useful to us. Things like “you are loved by your parents” or “the world is safe” or “you can rely on your caregivers” are truths we all want to be instilled within us within the first few months of being born. This is because the truths that are given to you at that tender age will often play a significant role in how other aspects of your Self are formed and defined.

However, if you are like I am, you were raised with a lot of less-than-healthy truths. Truths that I would be willing to wager you speak to yourself everyday. This is a post about heka and truths, and how abuse distorts our truth, and therefore our heka. This post will discuss many aspects of verbal abuse, so this is a massive CW/TW to anyone who could find these topics upsetting or unbearable at the moment. Please proceed ahead with caution.

Before I dive fully into this, I want to talk about what I mean by “truths.” In this case, I’m talking about any bit of information that we have been taught or learned and have then internalized and have now accepted, without any question, that this information is the honest-to-goodness truth. Truths of this nature may be good or bad, accurate or inaccurate, depending on what you’ve experienced in your life. Many of us are carrying around a lot of systemic truths that are perpetuated by our culture. Many of us are carrying around a lot of abusive truths that were pushed on us by our immediate family. Both types of truths often feed into one another, wherein the truths given to you by your family are reinforced by your surrounding culture and vice versa. Of course, the “truths” that hurt us are false, but they often feel very very true, even if we don’t necessarily realize it, so when I am using the phrase “false truth”, what I am meaning is a truth that is unhealthy for us, a lie that has been sold to us as truth. You’ll see me using “trauma” pretty regularly alongside “false truth” because you’re most likely to receive false and unhealthy truths from abusive people and traumatic situations.

So let’s get into it.


The worst part about how humans develop is how long it takes our brains to finish developing. It doesn’t help that our brains are something like “a sports car that has been given to a three year old,” especially because these sports cars take about 25 years to finish growing, and if you experience any sort of trauma or abuse before those 25 years are up, you’re more likely to have that trauma hardwired into your sense of self. Which means you’ve got 25 years to learn a lot of garbage that you then have to unlearn again in order to be healthy. Although most of us consider ourselves to be very objective and rational and removed from silly things like ideas we absorbed in childhood and never really outgrew, the truth of the matter is that most of us have a lot of ideas we absorbed in childhood and never really outgrew. If we were all truly rational and capable of removing ourselves from emotional hard wiring, cognitive dissonance wouldn’t be a thing, nor would racism. The cold hard truth of the matter is, we are not separate from our emotions, and our emotions can cause us to lie to ourselves regularly in order to protect our sense of self. It takes constant and diligent work to push back against our own ability to lie to ourselves.

The cherry on top of the “takes 25 years to finish growing” thing is that that some of the most important years for our development are the first few years. How you are raised by your caregivers will usually determine core aspects of how you view the world. Whether you think the world is a safe place or not, whether you feel nurtured and loved or abandoned, whether you can trust people or not. If your parents manage to mess up the first five years of your life, you usually will have resulting mental health work that needs to happen once you’re an adult. To quote someone who has done more work in this field than I have:

When parents do not provide safe enough bonding and positive feedback, the child flounders in anxiety and fear. Many children appear to be hard-wired to adapt to this endangering abandonment with perfectionism. A prevailing climate of danger forces the child’s superego to over-cultivate the various programs of perfectionism and endangerment listed below. Once again, the superego is the part of the psyche that learns parental rules (read: truths) in order to gain their acceptance.

The inner critic is the superego gone bad. The inner critic is the superego in overdrive desperately trying to win your parents approval. When perfectionist driving fails to win welcoming from your parents, the inner critic becomes increasingly hostile and caustic. It festers into a virulent inner voice that increasingly manifests self-hate, self-disgust, and self-abandonment.

The inner critic blames you incessantly for shortcomings that it imagines to be the cause of your parents rejection. It is incapable of understanding that the real cause lies in your parents’ shortcomings. The critic-driven child can only think about the ways they are too much or not enough.

The child’s unfolding sense of self (the healthy ego) finds no room to develop. Their identity virtually becomes the critic. The superego trumps the ego. In this process, the critic becomes increasingly virulent and eventually switches from the parents’ internalized voice: “You’re bad” to the first person: “I’m bad”.

You can see some of these false truths that many of us get saddled with in the quote above. Core ideas about whether you’re lovable or not, whether you’re fundamentally good or not, whether you can trust people or yourself — all of these things take root in your first few years. All of these truths will play into how you behave towards others, how you behave towards yourself, etc.

There is a saying that always reminds me of heka: it’s like playing a guitar, everyone can do it poorly, and only a handful of people can do it well.

The best and the worst parts about heka is that it is something that is very accessible to everyone, and we all have the ability to utilize our words, our body language, our actions to influence the world around us. In antiquity, we have stories of the lowest classes of society being able to bring the king into a swoon because their heka was that good. We’ve got stories of gods changing key aspects of the cosmos with their fine-tuned heka. It is everywhere, and it is free for the utilizing if you want to.

But its best selling point is also its downfall. Everyone can utilize heka, and everyone does utilize heka whether they realize it or not. It’s very easy to have the subtle, abusive heka of your childhood manifesting in the very heka you use as an adult. It’s so easy to carry false truths in our words, and it can be very hard to unroot those truths from our minds.

If the very things we tell ourselves daily are not true, how can we really know that we are true in our voice, or that our voice is carrying truth upon it? Humans often engage in daily dialogue that is based off of these falsehoods we were raised to believe as truth, and I can’t help but wonder how it influences the very heka we construct, and by extension, how we construct the world around us. I mentioned in my inertia post that people often behave based off of their expectations, and if our inner dialogue expects us to eternally suck, then how will our heka have any truly lasting power? If you’re getting in your own way before you’ve even tried, how can you hope to succeed?

There are many ways to un-knot false truths that are stuck in our minds. The path to fixing such things is not straightforward or easy. For most of us, we don’t have the resources to really tackle these issues head-on in a way that makes the work timely. Gods know that I have regressed on this issue many times in the past, and will likely regress many times again in the future due to lack of resources and fucks to give. However, that doesn’t mean that the work shouldn’t still be done, even if it will be a grueling task along the way. This post is less about solutions (I could write those posts in time, if people wanted them), and more about opening the table for discussion, so if you’ve got thoughts, I welcome them.

When you look at the things you tell yourself, the truths you have been fed throughout your life, how many of them are true? How many of them feel true, but probably aren’t? How do these things influence your daily life? Do you think it influences your heka? And of course, most importantly, when you do come across these false truths, do you want to do something about them? Why or why not?

 

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Ancient Egyptians Didn’t Have Disordered Eating

If there is a problem that has plagued my ritual work for years, it’s my disordered eating. And while I know that there is no absolute way to determine whether ancient Egypt had disordered eating present or not, I feel pretty confident in my guess that it wasn’t a prolific problem, if it existed at all. For those of you who are unaware, disordered eating is technically a sort of eating disorder, its just that there isn’t a particular name for the way that your eating is not healthy or “normal.” Many people have disordered eating and don’t realize it — potentially as many as 3 out of every 4 Americans have it, and for many of us, its a byproduct of our mental health and the unhealthy culture that we’re forced to live in.

For me specifically, my disordered eating is often a byproduct of my depression and stress levels. When my depression skyrockets in a particular way, I often don’t feel like eating — even if I’m hungry. Most things sound completely unappetizing, and when I force myself to eat I often end up with stomach aches or meltdowns as a result. This, of course, is a problem if you’re doing ritual work because our ritual structure mandates that you offer something to eat to the NTRW. I have yet to see a single Kemetic ritual that doesn’t include food offerings as a staple chapter.

And I mean, why not? Food is great (I guess?), it’s what keeps us alive, and supposedly the NTRW help us to grow is so that we can sustain ourselves with it. But it’s a huge problem if you can’t bring yourself to eat.

Years ago, I sought to bypass the disordered eating by using votive offerings instead. I bought a bunch of ReMent and used that to fill my offering plates for many many years. Even if I couldn’t bring myself to eat, I could bring myself to give the NTRW replicas of what I was supposed to be eating. I could offer them more in terms of number and quantity than I could ever do with actual food. It allowed me to let go of the stress around food and just focus on being present.

Of course, people did not like the idea. I’ve read everything from “that’s half-assing it” to “if you give the NTRW ‘fake’ offerings, they’ll give you fake blessings in return.” And so I’ve always ended up having a mixed relationship with my votive offerings because years and years of being told that they aren’t good enough will eventually leave you feeling like they aren’t good enough.

And so when I finally could eat again, because my health issues had reached a certain level of improvement, I told myself that I should try to use real food and not votive offerings. I created a sort of “rule” in my head that votive offerings are only for people who can’t offer “real” food (not that I’d ever place that rule on someone else. It was only ever directed at me.) And so I packed them away and tried not to use them. Fast forward a few years to my Year of Rites project where I told myself I would use real food for the entire thing because I knew I should eat, could eat, and needed to eat. And therefore, should try to use my ritual work to motivate myself to eat better and regularly.

And I guess it’s worked so far. If you read through what few updates I’ve given, or parse through the images that I used to take, you’ll see that offerings were still a problem for me. I can’t tell you how many rituals get put off until the end of the day because I couldn’t force myself to cook or eat early enough to do things at a reasonable time, or how many times I just grabbed a piece of convenience snacking material to offer instead. But the more important point is that I was managing up until August.

I want to preface this with a certain level of “I knew this would happen.”

As my grandfather lay on his death bed, I could overhear my mother telling the handful of people that were there with us that she really wanted to make sure that people checked up on me for the next few weeks. She was worried that I would fall apart after he died, and seemingly was trying to be proactive or something. I remember trying to meet these people halfway, letting them know that my depression would likely stave itself for a month or two, and that if people were really concerned, they’d make sure that they came around in a month or two, because that’s when I’d likely actually need the help. My emotions take time to process. My disassociation takes time to wear off so that I can feel what I’m actually feeling.

It took a while to kick in, but I noticed that by the end of August, my eating was beginning to slip. I blamed it on a new medical protocol I was trying, and hoped that my appetite would return.

But it hasn’t. And I’m not really surprised about it. Just as I had told those people — it takes time for my grief to process, and so the depression took a bit to really settle in.

Each day that there is a ritual scheduled, I feel this sort of dread or aversion in my stomach. To know that not only do I need to come up with something to offer the gods, I need to actually eat it, and I need to prepare it at such a time that I will have the time to perform the ritual, but also won’t lose my desire to eat whatever it is by the time my ritual work is done (for example, if I take a break while eating, I often lose all desire to finish my meals. I eat to reduce my stomach pain, and once that’s even mildly resolved, I often quit eating.)

When you combine this with how much I absolutely can’t stand this last batch of rubrics I made, you’ve got a recipe for not doing many rituals. So far I’ve only missed three rites this year (they were all execrations. Execrations feel like the world’s biggest waste of time and involve finding a place to start a fire and smelling like smoke and I’d just rather not most days,) but I can tell that this last quarter will be the hardest because I hate the words and I hate the food. There are other factors at play as well, but I still feel that these are the largest components to why I’m avoidant of doing ritual work right now.

So this begs to ask — what does one do about this? After this year’s worth of work, I honestly have a lot of criticism of people’s assumptions about how rituals should be set up, how often one should be able to do them, what they should consist of, how much we should be maintaining ancient practices, etc. But even if we don’t get into analyzing traditional ideas of what Kemetic rituals entail, it still really needs to be asked: what do we do about disordered eating? It’s quite clear that the ancient Egyptians didn’t have this particular hurdle to overcome, and so it’s something that we modern practitioners need to answer for ourselves, and possibly for our community.

Votive offerings seemed to be a solid alternative, but at the same time, there is a lot of moral baggage that comes with using them. You risk being ostracized or criticized by your fellows, and that just leads to more dysfunction for a person. The other alternative is to not offer food at all, or perhaps give only a voice offering — but both of these are also rife with chastisement and belittling within our community (have I mentioned recently how much I hate our community? I hope this post gives a little peek as to some of the reasons why) and I know that I often feel like voice offerings are not “enough.” It would feel weird to sit at my shrine and just say words and not perform any ritual actions that mirror the words. So, from what I can tell, no clear alternative exists that won’t evoke feelings of shame because it results in at least a portion of our community putting someone down for using it or doing it.

So I ask you all, how do we get around this? What is the best solution? How do we modify ritual structures for modern problems such as this? Is there even an alternative that anyone can take that doesn’t result in being shat on? Because so far, the answer feels a lot like a no.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2019 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Year of Rites

 

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